Stages of Grief – Living Through Change

Stages of Grief – Living Through Change

Stages of Grief! When we go through any form of change in life we lose something. There is something for which we grieve. Even when things change for the better, something else is lost. Perhaps, it is only the comfort that comes from old habits and familiar surroundings!

We experience feeling of loss during all major life changes. For example, this could be when we lose someone close. Or, perhaps, it might be losing a job. But, the feelings overwhelm us, and this is unfamiliar and unwelcome.

So, it is useful to know what to expect. Then you can understand that you are not alone. And you are quite normal. You will be able to work through this experience to find a good way ahead!

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross.

Most theories on handling life changes like redundancy are based on the work of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross.

Stages of Grief
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

Kubler-Ross was a doctor who spent a lot of time working with the dying in Switzerland.  She hated the way doctors often shunned the dying because they felt embarrassed by their own inability to help!  Busy doctors could always find an excuse to avoid an encounter.

Dr Kubler-Ross spent time both comforting the dying and studying them.  And, she wrote a book called ‘On Death and Dying’ which included a description of the stages of grief that is often referred to as the Grief Cycle.

In the years after her book was published, psychologists realised that this cycle was not exclusive to just the terminally ill.  This meant it applied to people who were affected by all kinds of bad news and life changes.

The important factor was not whether the change was good or bad, but how you perceived it.  If you think you are losing something you value then to a greater or lesser extent you will grieve for it.

Stages of Grief – the Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle

This chart illustrates her Grief Cycle!  It shows the roller-coaster of feelings that can follow news of a life change as you move between activity and passivity until you reach real acceptance. Of course, the reality isn’t as neat and tidy as this. You can slip, slide, and spiral backwards and forwards through the cycle until you teach equanimity again. But it still a useful model.

Stages of Grief

Information and lot of communication is needed at the beginning. Emotional support helps throughout. But it matters particularly when you are feeling lost in the middles stages. Later, guidance and advice on options can help.

Stages of Grief; how they really feel

So, there you are living your life as best you can. Then suddenly you learn something, or someone makes a decision. And it means life will never be quite the same for you again!

  • You move into Shock. Perhaps there is an initial paralysis at hearing the bad news).
  • You try your best to ignore it and go on day by day doing what you have always done. Denial means you are trying to avoid the inevitable.
  • Beginning to get frustrated, you know you just can’t avoid it. Anger may takeover with a frustrated outpouring of bottled-up emotion.
  • You try everything you know to find a way out And you may try to bargain, still seeking in vain for a way out.
  • Then you realise there is no way out. Depression can follow a final realisation of the inevitable.
  • Hopefully, you move on and start looking at options. And you may try out new ways of behaving.  You are testing but seeking realistic solutions.
  • You find the best way ahead for you. Acceptance follows as finally you find the way forward.

This description is extended slightly from the original Kubler-Ross model, which does not explicitly include the Shock and Testing stages. These stages however are often useful when trying to understand and work through change.

Experience varies and support helps.

Sometimes you go round the various bends more than once depending on your personal journey. Sometimes you can miss a stage out completely.  But I have described the most common journey.

People have found it useful to have the map when they go through personal change. You stop worrying about what you are feeling, knowing it is quite normal. You start to look for triggers that might take you onto the next stage. The support of friends and family can make a huge difference.  Working with a counsellor or life coach can also help, particularly if you get a bit stuck in one of the stages.

Wendy Smith is a career consultant, life coach and business coach with depth of experience in management, coaching and personal development. That experience means she is equally at home helping clients find a new career direction, starting-up new businesses or dealing with life’s more challenging personal issues. You can contact her at wendy@wisewolfcoaching.com

Wendy has written a little eBook on how to get on with your boss and a book on job search – you can find her books on Amazon at this link

         

>Are you on the roller coaster of change?

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Elisabeth Kübler-RossELISABETH KÜBLER-ROSS



When we go through any change we lose something. 

It may be a change for the better or for the worse.  But something will be lost!  Even if it is only the comfort that comes from old habits and familiar surroundings!

The feelings we may experience during major life changes like losing a job can overwhelm us, and certainly, some of them, may be unfamiliar.

So sometimes it is useful to know what to expect. Then we can realise that we are not alone and we are quite normal.  We will still be able to work through this to find a good way ahead!
Most theories about handling life changes like redundancy are based on the work of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. 

Kubler-Ross was a doctor who spent a lot of time working with the dying in Switzerland.  She hated the way doctors often shunned the dying because they felt embarrassed by their inability to help!  Busy doctors could always find an excuse to avoid an encounter.  
Dr Kubler-Ross spent time both comforting the dying and studying them. She wrote a book, called ‘On Death and Dying’ which included the cycle of emotional states that is often referred to as the Grief Cycle.
In the years after her book was published, psychologists realised that this cycle was not exclusive to just the terminally ill.  It applied to people who were affected by all kinds of bad news, such as losing their jobs.
The important factor was not whether the change was good or bad, but how you perceived it.  If you think you are losing something you value then to a greater or lesser extent you will grieve for it.
The Extended Grief Cycle
This chart illustrates the Extended Grief Cycle!  It shows the roller-coaster of feelings that can follow news of a life change as you move between activity and passivity until you reach real acceptance.  
There you are living your life as best you can when suddenly you learn something, or someone makes a decision, that means life will never be quite the same for you again!
·         So you move into Shock* (initial paralysis at hearing the bad news).
·        You try your best to ignore it and go on day by day doing what you have always done – Denial (trying to avoid the inevitable).
·        You begin to get frustrated because you know you just can’t avoid it – Anger (the frustrated outpouring of bottled-up emotion).
·        You try everything you know to find a way out – Bargaining (seeking in vain for a way out).
·        Then you realise there is no way out – Depression (final realization of the inevitable).
·        You start looking at options and trying out new ways of behaving Testing* (seeking realistic solutions).
·        You find the best way ahead for you – Acceptance (finally finding the way forward).
* This model is extended slightly from the original Kubler-Ross model, which does not explicitly include the Shock and Testing stages. These stages however are often useful when trying to understand and work through change.
I don’t know where you are right now in the cycle.  
Sometimes we go round the various bends more than once depending on our personal journey. Sometimes we can miss a stage out completely.  But this is the journey most people make.  

I know I find it useful to have the map in my head when I go through personal change. I stop worrying about what I’m feeling, knowing it is quite normal, and start looking for triggers that might take me onto the next stage.  I hope we are going to provide resources on this site to help you do that.
It would be great if you were prepared to share your own feelings about the change you face here.  Your stories will help others to realise they are not alone in their own experience.  If you would like to do so anonymously rather than commenting below, please send your thoughts to me at wendymason@leavingthepublicsector.net marking your email ANONYMOUS in the subject line.

>Learn from the past but look to the future – getting ready to make your choices

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My old school motto was Respice Prospice – learn from the past but look to the future.  A great motto but you need to make sure your time looking backwards is well balanced by your time spent looking forwards.

You need to know when to flip your thinking forward and begin to find your choices

I spent more than 30 years as a Civil Servant.  But I can truly say I felt like a teenager when I left!  I was anxious about the future.  But I was excited about the possibilities as well.

Once I got over the shock of not being allowed to go on doing what I had chosen to do, it was like being in a room with a lot of doors.  But the door I had come through was very firmly shut behind me.  It takes a while to come to terms with that and for me it felt very strange!

As I began to peep though some of the other doors, it began to be exciting.  I was free to make a choice!
Well not completely free.  I had financial responsibilities and I did have commitments I shared with my other half! There were other constraints as well of course!  As a friend of mine remarked, it really was much too late take up brain surgery.

But provided I could generate a certain level of income and was prepared to stay in South London, I had a lot of choice.  It was like being a teenager again and time to think about what I really wanted to do with the rest of my life.

That was four years ago and the economic climate has changed a lot since then.  But when you are ready to start exploring you will be surprised by how many choices you still have.

Getting to find and make your choices can be quite a challenge.

When you feel you have been forced out of what you chose to do, the temptation is dwell on the negative parts of the past!  That can get in the way of finding your opportunities.

You ruminate on why it happened and how it could have been different.  Sometimes you can become quite obsessed with finding someone to blame. That process can be peculiarly satisfying! In some ways it’s comforting because it is a way of standing still and staying where you are! But it is comfort based on a fantasy and being angry takes a toll on you physically and mentally, as well as on those about you!

You can’t change the past but you can change the way you think about it.  If you’ve started work on your star stories, then you have some very good things to remember.  Try to concentrate of them and make a determined effort not to ruminate on the negative!

Now here you are, and I’m telling you, you can mould your future!  And you need to flip your thinking forwards! But how do you do it?

Well, you may find this recommendation from Ann Lewis useful
“In her book, Change Your Questions, Change Your Life, Marilee Adams PhD has a really useful model that she calls the Choice Map.  You can download it from her site. My clients find it really helpful when they’re dealing with difficult situations at work.”
The Choice Map will help you to start focussing on the road ahead and where you might want it to lead.
When you do start to think about your options – here are a few thoughts from me
1.    Don’t let age limit your thinking – people have gone off in all kinds of new directions before you. It might be too late to be a brain surgeon but there are still lots of interesting and worthwhile things ahead of you.  

2.    People do all kinds of things after leaving the Civil Service in mid-life.  One my former junior managers is now a barrister!  He didn’t start his legal training until his late forties!  Some former colleagues have trained as paramedics, opened shops or become complementary therapists. Others have opted for a portfolio career as non-executive directors and project and programme reviewers. Guess what, I know one person who signed up with an agency to work as a film extra!

3.    Don’t make assumptions about what your spouse/partner and your family want you to do.  Talk to them about the change.  You might be very surprised by how they see what is happening and how they are prepared to work with you to establish your new life.

4.    Be open-minded about possibilities.  When I left the Civil Service I was invited to an interview for a role that I thought was ‘below me’ and completely unsuitable.  I went along to the interview for experience.  When I got there I found the job was going to be challenging and the people were great. I took the work!

5.    Be prepared to be flexible and possibly mix and match. Many people these days have portfolio careers.  I’m afraid the days of secure employment until retirement are no more.  So your security will come from your experience, skills and training. If you are prepared to put the work in, they could still take you to a series of different roles – each one building on the last.  Or maybe you could combine a number of part- time roles – I combine being a consultant, coach and blogger with sometimes working as an interim manager!

6.    Be prepared to consider training or re-training for a role you really want, or for work available in your area.

7.    Expect working in new sectors to be different!  But remember different doesn’t necessarily mean worse, it just means you need to be prepared to get used to it. 

8.    When you need it, be prepared to ask for help.  There is lots of help out there.  If you are lucky enough to be working with a coach then you know you have support.  Help will come from friends and family.  And we will be identifying other kinds of help here on our tips and resources page.  In the meantime if you have a question, get in touch and I will do my best to point you in the right direction.
I hope all this helps. I would love to have your comments and your thoughts on your own experience.  If you have tips and observations to pass onto others please let us have them by email (wendymason@leavingthepublicsector.netor in the comments below.


Wendy Mason is used to working with people moving out of the Public Sector! She is a performance, programme, contract management and change specialist. She works as a consultant, business coach and blogger.  Adept at problem solving, she is a great person to bring in when that one thing you thought was straightforward turns out not to be! If you have a problem talk to Wendy – she can help you – email her at wendymason@leavingthepublicsector.net or ring ++44(0)7867681439
You can find her business blog at www.wisewolftalking.com